ROEA hands over Medically Assisted Therapy Clinics: New beginnings in Mombasa County


On 11 September 2015, after much anticipation, UNODC's Regional Office for Eastern Africa officially handed over two new medically assisted therapy (MAT) clinic to the County Government of Mombasa. The day officiated by the Countie's Cabinet Secretary for Health Hon. Ms. Binti Omar, represented the start of a new response to the coastal drug problem, a plight that has claimed too many lives to date. 

It is estimated that more than 18,000 people inject heroin in Kenya, with the coastal region the epicenter of the problem with some 10,000 people who inject drugs (PWID). In addition to community and security concerns, injecting drug use represents a severe public health burden for the coastal counties with problems including HIV, the risk of premature death, hepatitis B or C and other blood borne virus transmission. HIV prevalence among people who inject drugs in Kenya ranges from 18%-30% compared to the general population that stands at 5.6% - numbers that are alarmingly high and required a response at the same scale.  

This September's hand-over forms part of a greater UNODC Programme initiated in 2014 - one that aims at making MAT services accessible to 6000 PWID on the Coast by 2018.  The programme,  which also handed-over a first clinic in February this year to the County of Kilifi, is implemented in close collaboration with the National and  County Governments  (Mombasa, Kilifi and Kwale), Civil Society Organizations, and was made possible through the generous support of the PEPFAR, the United States President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and USAID. 

In Mombasa County, the Kisauni Health Center and Coast General Hospital (CGH) were identified by Country Officials for both construction and for refurbishment. In addition to making facilities fit for purpose, UNODC spent months training staff and collaborators for the start of service delivery - to date, over 40 PWIDs have accessed MAT services at CGH, with Kisauni soon to start induction of new clients. 

The day could not have been more festive - with all having a feeling that communities, families and lives were about to change for the better. Ms. Sylvie Bertrand, UNODC Regional Advisor for HIV and AIDS, on behalf of the Regional Representative Mr. Jose Vila Del Castillo, proudly and officially handed-over the clinics to Mombasa County Executive Committee Member for Health-Hon. Binti, both vows to continue the fruitful partnership that leads to this day. In handing over the facilities, Ms. Bertrand called the day an historic one and referred to county and national governments as "HIV epidemic trailblazers" on the continent. She thanks all involved for their commitment to ensuring that we end AIDS by 2030 among all Kenyans - including those most-at-risk. 

Among other guests present was the Member of Parliament for Mvita Constituency- Abdulwamad Nassir, Head of NASCOP- Dr. Martin Sirengo, Country Director for UNAIDS-Dr. Jantine Jacobi, NASCOP's Project Manager for Key Populations-Helgar Musyoki, UNODC Regional adviser for HIV&AIDS, Civil Society Organizations, the Muslims Education and Welfare Association (MEWA) and Reachout Center Trust (RCT).

The celebration lead to a number of inspiring addresses underlining  the  importance of this initiative in the county's public health, safety and security and community responses.  Dr. Martin Sirengo of NASCOP, underscored the close linkages between injection drugs and HIV transmission, while the MP for Mvita stressed that MAT is at the heart of Mombasa county government - a response that he has long awaited. The guest of honor, CEC Binti Omar, a champion for the programme from the onset, proudly reiterated the counties commitment while also acknowledging the roles of CSOs and need for strong PWID commitment. Mr. Hussein Abdalla Taib, referred to MAT as "the solution to heroin addiction" and referred to the Programme as the as a turning point in the lives of those who inject drugs.